Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Walk In the Park

[Update 17-Jul:   Big Bug has been identified!]

We have been fortunate with the condo we have been staying in during our stay here in Singapore.  We are at the bottom of a hill called Mount Faber (OK, by Singapore standards, a mountain), which contains Mount Faber Park.  Our balcony gazes out on an edge of the the park, which is tropical forest.  By U.S. standards, Mount Faber National Park is more on par with a large city park in the U.S. than the large reserved natural areas we think of as national parks.   With that in mind, the presence of restaurants, manicured garden plantings, and concrete walkways found in Mount Faber Park is not out of place.  It's crowning attraction is the terminus for a cabled tramway that links Mount Faber with Sentosa Island, a major tourist center and resort.  Mount Faber provides a wonderful vista out across Sentosa, and into the Singapore Strait to the southwest, and downtown Singapore to the southeast.

The park links via a greenbelt and sky walks with several other parks along the Southern Ridge.  It is a great area, and is well utilized.  Busloads of tourists are brought up to the peak in the evening (that part isn't so great-- it's a narrow road, past our condo) for the view, and it is a popular place for people to exercise--  runners, cyclists.  A little trivia--  it is also the location of one of three Merlion statues in Singapore.  Do you know care where the other two are?  (I thought not).
Elaine and I have been making a routine of vigorous walks up and through the park in the evenings .  The temperatures are most tolerable for this kind of thing from 6:00 PM to 7:15 PM, just prior to sunset.  This is also when you see many others with the same idea in mind.
On one evening last week during a walk (Elaine is traveling) it was apparently 'Nature Night' along the route.  It seemed the animals were out, and uncharacteristically quite bold.  I heard and saw several varieties of birds, and the macaques were visible, and particularly brazen on this evening.   The weather was also very pleasant, with milder temperatures and a light breeze.  The lighting was perfect.  With these unusual conditions, I enjoyed the outing, and snapped a few photos with the cell phone.  This was one of my longer outings, about 5 to 6 Km by my estimates.  Here are the photos from my Walk In the Park.
The pool--  Some people have asked, "what do you do all day while Elaine is working?"  I tell them I sit and lounge by the pool all day.  This is it.  It is double length, which is attractive to those who like to swim laps for exercise.  I'm not sure why I am including this picture in this blog entry, but it is another great attribute to our living location, in addition being so close to Mount Faber Park.

The Towering Lone Tree--  This tree stands a couple hundred meters from the condo complex, on the edge of the rain forest, and is one of my favorite views, actually.  I pass by it almost daily.  I have no idea what species the tree is, but it stands above its neighbors, and has a distinct shape.
Big Bug--  Some of Singapore's near by nature.  This guy (deceased) was on the walk near the condo complex, on the way up Mount Faber Road.  The wing colors are spectacular, and it is daunting in its size (maybe 30 to 35 mm in length).  I wonder if I would be so intrigued if it were still alive and buzzing about?  Big bug!  At first I thought it was a cicada (they are large, and 2 species are found here), but  I don't think that is correct.  I'm working on keying the critter, and will update this post if I learn what it is (was).

[UPDATE 17-Jul:  With the help of a local entomologist via the web, Big Bug has been identified.  It is a male Carpenter Bee Xylocopa latipes  which is the largest species in Singapore (I believe that!).  They can sting but very rarely-- only to protect their nest.  I've seen large bees here, probably also carpenter bees, but never one this large.  Mystery solved.

The reference coin is a Singapore 20 cent piece (21mm diameter), a little smaller than a U.S. quarter.

Masked bandit--  I've seen these birds frequently, but they're usually more shy-- this one was only 2 or 3 feet away for this picture and didn't care that I was there.  The entourage of 5 or 6 other birds kept a greater distance.  Another critter I haven't yet been able to identify.  It looks something like a jay.

Long-tailed Macaque--  This fellow is busy eating a banana (contraband provided by a passer-by--  feeding the macaques is highly discouraged, as they become brazen pests).  Odd animals--  I had to wait a while before he would look at the camera.  They seem to turn away and avoid looking at you if you are looking at them.  Camera shy?  Sorry to disturb your supper.  The location is the Henderson Waves bridge, a  foot bridge that connects Mount Faber Park with the next park in the Southern Ridges string, Telok Blangah Hill Park, crossing a busy street below (Henderson).

Sunset from Mount Faber--  this is view looking west.  No, your eyes aren't going bad-- the buildings do bend.  These are some new high rise buildings being constructed, nearly complete, which are architecturally 'clever' with a bend in their design.  I guess they are something to talk about, but I'm not impressed-- I don't think it adds a lot to the sky line.  I am also sure the clever design made the construction significantly more expensive-- it seems gratuitous.  Beyond the buildings is the entrance to Keppel Harbour, and beyond is Sentosa Island.   This side of Keppel Harbour is for cruise ships and some local ferries that service the local region (Indonesia). In the far distance, beyond Sentosa, you can make out some faint lights of Jurong Island (Pulau Jurong) and perhaps Pulau Semakau.  Jurong is the site of an enormous oil refinery.  Pulau Semakau is actually two former islands, Semakau and  Semakeng, which were fused together by fill.  This is Singapore's landfill.  However the fill is actually only ash from an extremely large incinerator plant.  It is a fascinating technology in operation.  Although it has its issues and critics (e.g. there are/were coral reefs around these two islands, and required relocating the inhabitants of a small village previously on the island), it seems like a preferable approach than simple burial (of whatever) with hopes of timely decomposition.

Singapore sunset--  looking northeast from Mount Faber.  Downtown Singapore is off picture to the right.

Henderson Waves Bridge--  This architecturally intriguing foot bridge spans Henderson Road below, and connects Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Parks.  It is a very popular site for wedding pictures, and clothing modeling, taken at sunset.  On this evening alone there were three separate photo shoots of bride/grooms going on.  It was a little tricky to avoid becoming a sweaty body in the background of some one's wedding photo.

Danish Seaman's Church-(see the better photo in the link)-  This is my favorite historic building in Singapore, and is located in Mount Faber Park--  it was built in 1909 by Thomas Knox Leonowen, who was in the hardwood trade business (Louis T. Leonowens Ltd, still in business).  Thomas was the grandson of Anna Leonowen (Louis T. her son), made famous in the fictional account of her time in Thailand, Anna and the King of Siam.  It is now a Danish church, founded for serving Danish seamen and other ex patriots away from their native land.

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